Cork City have finally tasted victory under Neal Fenn.
The Leesiders beat UCD 3-2 in a thrilling affair at Turner’s Cross to secure their status in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division for 2020, all but condemning the Students to relegation in the process.
Cork’s win is their first under Fenn, who replaced John Caulfield midway through the season, and their first since August.
Fenn’s side are now nine clear of ninth-placed Finn Harps with just two games remaining, with UCD a further six points adrift of Harps.
Karl Sheppard opened the scoring for Cork in the 34th minute, racing on to Gearoid Morrissey’s through ball to cut inside a UCD defender and blast past Conor Kearns at his near post.
The Leesiders led 1-0 at the interval, but there was plenty of drama in the second period.
Cork ‘keeper Tadhg Ryan was forced into a brilliant double save by Dara Keane and Yoyo Mahdy, but it was the home side who grabbed the game’s second goal.
In the 64th minute, Daire O’Connor calmly finished past Kearns after being sent through by debutant Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh.
UCD – battling desperately for survival – hit back eight minutes later when Dara Keane met Jason McClelland’s corner with a powerful header to halve the deficit.
Ryan then denied Keane a second goal with an excellent save, before Conor McCormack reacted sharply to block Liam Kerrigan’s goalbound effort.
Kerrigan was then sent off five minutes from time after picking up a second yellow card.
McCormack made it 3-1 to Cork in the 90th minute with a powerful low effort into the bottom corner.
Less than a minute later, however, the Cork defender felled UCD’s Danu Kinsella Bishop inside the area at the other end.
Jack Keaney kept his cool from 12 yards to make it 3-2, ensuring a nervy ending for the hosts.
Kinsella Bishop struck the post in the dying seconds as the Students almost snatched a late leveller, but the Leesiders held out for their first win in five months.
UCD are now six points behind Finn Harps with two games remaining, with a goal difference which is -17 below their relegation rivals.
Harps, meanwhile, will contest the play-offs after suffering defeat to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.